Drunk Woman Asks Police for Directions, Goes Direct to Jail. Is There a Lesson?

effects-of-alcohol-result-dumb-actionsIt’s not enough to cite an amusing drunk driving story, at least not on this blog. So we’ll try to make a point as well.

The story: Janet McIntyre of Newburgh, Indiana pulled up next to a parked patrol car and asked for directions to a local night club.

She didn’t get there. One smell of her breath, one look into her bloodshot eyes, and one earful of her slurred speech was enough for the officer, who tested gave her a sobriety test that she failed. Her BAC was over .19, or over twice the legal limit.

The point: Sure, it’s funny, but one needs to ask why she did it. Any of these could serve as the reason:

  • She didn’t realize they were police. Unlikely, since the police car was fully marked
  • She didn’t realize she was drunk enough to be driving illegally. Seems far-fetched.
  • She didn’t know drunk driving was against the law. Even more far-fetched, but we’re covering all the bases here.
  • She was a living demonstration of how bad your judgement can get when you’re impaired by alcohol. We’ll go with this one.

effects-of-alcohol-facepalmA 2011 study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology points to the conclusion that people who drink are aware they are making mistakes. These mistakes could include the big one – driving. And on the road those mistakes might well include cutting off people, swerving into the oncoming lane, or otherwise doing dangerous things.

What’s different is that people who are drunk don’t care about their mistakes as much. Alcohol not only impairs one’s ability and causes blunders, it also reduces “negative affect” – the bad feeling that results from those blunders. It’s obvious how this helps make drunk driving even more lethal.

So the theory then, is that the offender in question knew that it wasn’t a good idea to pull up to anyone – much less a police officer – to ask for direction when drunk. But she didn’t care. Alcohol reduced the negative affect of her mistake.

It’s interesting that while so many studies keep coming out analyzing the effect of alcohol on people, no study has yet shown alcohol to be beneficial for driving. And none are likely to anytime soon.